Horizontal gene transfer

Type of nonhereditary genetic change / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) or lateral gene transfer (LGT)[1][2][3] is the movement of genetic material between unicellular and/or multicellular organisms other than by the ("vertical") transmission of DNA from parent to offspring (reproduction).[4] HGT is an important factor in the evolution of many organisms.[5][6] HGT is influencing scientific understanding of higher order evolution while more significantly shifting perspectives on bacterial evolution.[7]

Tree of life showing vertical and horizontal gene transfers

Horizontal gene transfer is the primary mechanism for the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria,[8][5][9][10] and plays an important role in the evolution of bacteria that can degrade novel compounds such as human-created pesticides[11] and in the evolution, maintenance, and transmission of virulence.[12] It often involves temperate bacteriophages and plasmids.[13][14][15] Genes responsible for antibiotic resistance in one species of bacteria can be transferred to another species of bacteria through various mechanisms of HGT such as transformation, transduction and conjugation, subsequently arming the antibiotic resistant genes' recipient against antibiotics. The rapid spread of antibiotic resistance genes in this manner is becoming a challenge to manage in the field of medicine. Ecological factors may also play a role in the HGT of antibiotic resistant genes.[16]

Horizontal gene transfer is recognized as a pervasive evolutionary process that distributes genes between divergent prokaryotic lineages[17] and can also involve eukaryotes.[18][19] It is postulated that HGT promotes the maintenance of a universal life biochemistry and, subsequently, the universality of the genetic code.[20]